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Monday, October 20, 2014

Why Basing Suspensions on How Much Time an Opponent Misses Wouldn’t Work

With all the talk about head shots that’s been circling the NFL over the past few weeks, there have been a number of theories about what the punishment should be for a player who’s guilty of such behavior.  Last week, the league slapped hefty fines on several players after a number of illegal hits lead to various injuries to “defenseless” receivers.  James Harrison even claims he was so frustrated with the decision that he contemplated retirement.

On ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Adam Schefter reported that the NFL is going to consider a policy for illegal hits that would include the culprit missing as much time as the victim.  That language sounds a bit harsh, but it’s the easiest way to put it.  If a player hits an opponent illegally and the opponent has to miss two games, the player who hit him would be suspended two games and so on.

Here’s why there is no way that policy would work.  If you want to say I’m reading into it too much, that’s you’re prerogative.  Just keep in mind how hard NFL coaches work to gain a competitive edge in any way possible.  Consider this hypothetical situation:  The Patriots and Jets are facing one another.  Both are in close competition for the AFC East divison lead.  A receiver that really isn’t crucial to the Patriots’ success — we’ll say Julian Edelman — catches a pass over the middle and gets popped by Darrelle Revis.  Revis gets flagged for an illegal hit and, as a result, suspended by the league.

Here’s where it could get interesting.  The Jets need Revis a lot more than the Patriots need Edelman.  With the division lead on the line, what would stop New England from saying Edelman “hasn’t been cleared to play.”  With a suspension system like the one Schefter says the NFL is considering, Revis would have to sit out as long as Edelman “can’t” play.  New York is clearly a weaker team without Revis.  See where I’m going with this?

It might sound far-fetched, but would you really put it past someone like Bill Belichick?  There’s no way coaches wouldn’t find a way to use such a policy to their advantage.  Such is the manipulative nature of the NFL.  That reason alone should be enough to squash any talk of such a policy.



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